Now the Japanese are Mad at Chinese Tourists

China is educating travelers to respect foreign customs

While the number of mainland Chinese tourists that spent their Chinese New Year holidays in Hong Kong has declined for the first time since the 1997 handover, neighbouring Japan and South Korea have become increasingly popular with Chinese travellers.

Data released by Hong Kong’s immigration department show that 675,155 mainlanders visited Hong Kong between February 18 and 22, a 0.16 percent drop compared with last year. Many regard the rising anti-mainland sentiment in Hong Kong as the main cause for the diminishing popularity of the former British colony with mainland visitors.

Over the last few years, the misbehaviour of some mainland tourists as well as the soaring number of Chinese shoppers has caused widespread anger and prompted many Hongkongers to take to the streets. On February 8, for example, around 800 Hong Kong residents protested against Chinese one-day shoppers and parallel traders that are making the city unlivable.

Japan and South Korea, on the contrary, have seen a 10 percent increase in the number of mainland tourists. Recent data show that a total of 5.2 million Chinese visited the two countries during the Chinese New Year holidays. However, if they hoped to be treated with more leniency and understanding than in Hong Kong, they were wrong. Uncivilised behaviour has, once again, tarnished the image of Chinese tourists.

On 25 February, a Japanese TV programme showed a mainland Chinese mother who let her child urinate in front of a shop in Tokyo’s famous Ginza district. A journalist approached the mother and told her that her behaviour was improper. Yet instead of acknowledging her mistake and apologising, the woman showed the journalist a plastic bag and said her child had urinated inside the bag and had not made the floor dirty.

Some Chinese netizens rejected the criticism. “A child peeing in the street now becomes news. It’s not such a big deal,” wrote a netizen. Others condemned the behaviour. “Travellers must adapt themselves to the customs of other countries. We cannot fill the whole world with urine,” wrote another.

That was not an isolated incident. Department stores and shop clerks complained about mainland Chinese not following the rules, starting to eat snacks before having purchased them, or blocking store entrances by spreading out their suitcases.

Over the past few years numerous cases of blatant misbehaviour on the part of mainland Chinese travellers have made headlines worldwide: from a boy urinating in a Taipei restaurant to a passengers threatening to blow up an airplane because of a delay, from a toddler peeing in a crowded street in Hong Kong to a Chinese woman hurling a box of hot noodles at a flight attendant because she found out she wouldn’t be sitting next to her boyfriend.

The Chinese authorities as well as the media seem to have realised that the misconduct of some mainland travellers negatively affects the image of the entire nation and results in widespread anti-Chinese sentiment. In May 2014, for example, Xinhua News Agency published the “Six Guidelines” and “Six Taboos”, a guide teaching mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong how to behave properly. On February 10 of this year Huang Ping, Director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs, reminded Chinese travellers to behave properly. “You can neither be unruly because you have money, nor can you be fearless because you don’t know local customs,” he said.

Aris Teon

A blogger writing about Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.